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Migraine and Special Occasions: Navigating Holidays

Special occasions often include shopping, wrapping, baking, packing, traveling, cleaning, decorating…it’s enough to make our heads spin…and that’s without the added complication of migraine!! So how do we combat the effects of the added stress from all of the holiday craziness? It seems like a simple thing to say plan ahead, but when we break things down and become intentional about how we get things done, it can help our holidays run more smoothly.

** While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to manage all of the craziness that comes with special occasions, I think it’s important to remember a very important idea that is often hard to put into practice. We might be better off saying no to hosting a special occasion or having guests stay at our house. We don’t have to do everything and we don’t have to make a list of reasons for why we won’t. Just knowing that it’s not good for our health is good enough. Sometimes, ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Be good to yourself.

Hosting The Special Occasion

Are you hosting a dinner or party for family and friends? Having guests at your house for the holidays? Maybe you have several parties to attend and you need to take something to each one and they are all in a matter of days? What are the major things that have to happen and when do they need to happen?

The biggest problem I tend to face is the stress of the special occasions and then the stress let down migraine attack once the event is over. I have found that the more I plan, the less stress tends to creep into the days leading up to a special occasion and therefore I’m less likely to have a migraine attack. Leaving things to chance or ‘winging it’ is a recipe for disaster when it comes to my head, no matter how successful the event might be. Making sure I am working my Treatment Pie and my Bucket is as empty as possible is also key.

The Master Plan

I like to make a master plan working backwards from the Big Day. I break down all of the most important things that have to happen and put them on a list. Then I assign them times that they need to happen. This list can be from one day to a month long, give yourself lots of time to accomplish tasks. Generally, the farther away from the Big Day, the more general the entry into the master plan…something like ‘Buy Groceries From List’. On the day of the event, the entries will be much more specific and include times… “Start potatoes 4:30pm”, “Carve turkey 6:30pm”.

a list on paper for managing migraine during celebrations
Make a master plan

Schedule your wrapping, shopping, baking etc. I include all of the baking that I need to do for various parties I will attend as well as the cooking for the main events. I used to have these last minute Christmas Eve wrapping sessions that stressed me out. NO MORE!!! I have all wrapping done so that I can watch White Christmas one last time on Christmas Eve with the family. Some people love to wrap on Christmas Eve so I know this is not a stressor for everyone. 

Asking For Help

One of the hardest things to do is ask for help. Am I right? First, you might get the complaining which can set anyone off. Second, sometimes it’s just easier to do it yourself to make sure it gets done right. Following around after someone else to redo something they have done is inefficient and well…kinda rude. We have all felt this way at one time or another. No need to feel bad about it. But we need to reel in this control freak and let it go. Everything doesn’t need to be PERFECT, it just needs to get done. And just because they don’t do it exactly like you doesn’t mean it’s not right. Right? LOL! I can feel you cringing. Trust me. It will be ok. 

  • Remember The Goal – Protecting your head and getting through these special occasions without a migraine attack is the goal. The more help you have, the less stressed you’ll be. Ask for help. 
  • Delegate items on the list to family members. Not everything needs to be done by you. Pretty much everyone knows how to run a vacuum and they can dust as well. Expect help. Demand it if you need to. This is important to make sure your head is in the best shape possible.
  • Errands – Make a list and check it twice. Send your minions out to gather supplies while you take care of the stuff at home. It limits the feeling of running around which will reduce the stress as well. 

Making Time For Self Care

A couple of those items on the list should be self care items like meditate, read a book, take an Epsom salt bath, soak my feet in magnesium flakes, play with the cat, take a walk with the dog or spend some time in the Migraine Strong Facebook group. If you don’t schedule it, then you might find that all of your time is gone. A cup of ginger tea and a cookie might be what you need to recharge in between all of the other things you have going on. And you are so worth it!! This might seem like something you can probably do without or let slide. But trust me, this is one that will get away from you. All of a sudden you will begin to feel overwhelmed and harassed as the big day draws near. Take time for yourself. You will be glad you did and your head will thank you. 

black dog with red leash in its mouth
Walk the dog

Guests Coming To Stay

If you are having guests stay with you, explain that you need to stick to your routine. They are welcome to stay up as late as they would like, but you need to be at your best for them and that means you have to follow your bedtime routine. Don’t apologize, just do it. You are awesome and will be better off sticking to your routines even if your mother-in-law wants you to stay up late playing cards.

In preparation for their arrival, add to your master plan all the things necessary to get their room and supplies ready. Depending on your budget, you might consider hiring a cleaning service to help out before and after your guests visit. I usually plan to start a week early with freshening the room, vacuuming, dusting, washing all of the bed linens and towels and stowing away anything that is extraneous in the room. I also clean the bathroom the day before they arrive and make sure I have some extras like toothbrushes, soaps etc in case they might need them. Communicating with your guests about food allergies or restrictions can be helpful before they arrive to avoid any issues with menu planning. 

What are some other things that can help us stay ahead of the holiday craziness? Share in our Private Facebook Group anything you do to stay ahead and avoid stress let down migraine attacks around celebrations. We love to hear your success stories and any tips you might have for our other members. 

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Migraine and Special Occasions: Navigating Holidays

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About the Author

Eileen Zollinger

I began having migraine attacks when I was a teenager, but was never properly diagnosed until I was an adult. This began 18 years where I was chronic and mostly intractable, resulting in a migrainous stroke in the summer of 2014. By implementing the protocols from the Heal Your Headache book by Dr. David Buchholz and the Migraine Strong Treatment Pie, I have been able to reduce my migraine frequency to episodic and maintain that since 2015. The end result of continuing to practice these tools is being able to actively participate in my life as a wife, mother, family member and friend. My goal as a migraine advocate, educator, and wellness coach is to help others gain more control over migraine. Let us know how we can help.

View all posts by Eileen Zollinger